Old Patient — General Dentistry in Asheville, NC

During your next visit to a dentistry clinic, your dentist might ask you questions about your sleep habits and your health. The reason dentists ask these questions is to explore the possibility that you might have a condition known as sleep apnea, which is a condition that causes a person to stop breathing while sleeping
Sleep apnea affects approximately 22 million Americans, and living with untreated sleep apnea is dangerous for your health. Your dentist may ask you questions relating to sleep apnea if your mouth indicates that you might have this, and here are several things to understand about this condition and the treatment for it.

Oral Signs That Indicate Sleep Apnea

You may wonder why your dentist cares about sleep apnea and the possibility that you might have it, and the reason is that sleep apnea affects oral health. Here are some of the common signs dentists look for that may indicate you have sleep apnea:
Jaw pain: Most people that have jaw pain have temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder. TMJ results from inflammation in the joints in your jaw, and studies show that TMJ is a direct result of sleep apnea. When you stop breathing during the night, your jaw responds by clenching, and clenching leads to pain.
Worn-down teeth: Grinding your teeth is another response of sleep apnea, and tooth-grinding leads to worn-down teeth.
Broken teeth: The responses of your jaw can lead to broken teeth if left untreated for a long period of time.
If your dentist spots these problems in your mouth, he or she might suspect you suffer from sleep apnea.

The Dangers and Risks of Sleep Apnea

The reason dentists care about sleep apnea is not only for the damage it does to a person's mouth, but also because sleep apnea has negative effects on a person's health. There are two main types of sleep apnea, and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common type.
A person with OSA will stop breathing while he or she sleeps, and this occurs when the tissue in the person's throat relaxes. When this happens, the tissue blocks the airway, and the person's breathing pauses. The pause in breathing triggers the person's brain to respond, and this is what causes the person to clench and grind his or her teeth.
As this happens, the brain triggers the heart to pump harder to make the person breathe. The harder pumping of the heart places a lot of extra pressure on the heart, and this pressure puts the person at a higher risk of developing heart problems, such as high blood pressure and heart disease.

How to Get Diagnosed and Treatment for Sleep Apnea

If your mouth, sleep habits, and health indicate you might suffer from sleep apnea, your dentist will encourage you to get a sleep study. A sleep study measures your brain waves, pulse, oxygen levels, and breathing patterns while you sleep, and it is the only true way to diagnose sleep apnea.
Finding out that you have sleep apnea might not seem like the greatest news in the world, but it is good news. If you receive this diagnosis, it opens up the opportunity for you to receive treatment for it, and this will lower your health risks very quickly.
One of the common ways doctors treat sleep apnea is with a dental guard, which is a mouthpiece you wear while you sleep. Wearing a mouthpiece keeps your airway open while you sleep, and this allows you to breathe freely all night.
Getting diagnosed with sleep apnea is the first step in treating it. If you suspect you might have this, contact Fox Dental Associates. Our team of dentists can help you with this and all other types of dental issues.